Thursday, 18 December 2008

Johnson leader of the lefties

Mitchell Johnson continues to carry the Australian seam attack and confound the critics who write-off the Aussies' bowling strength in the post-McGrath and Warne era.

Mitchell Johnson’s stunning spell against South Africa revealed a bowler in prime form. Johnson has spent most of the last year securing his place in the Australian team but now, 15 matches into a seemingly long and successful career, he has become the leader of the Aussie attack and Ricky Ponting’s go-to seamer.

Johnson is not the only left armer at the peak of his powers. Zaheer Khan is a key part of India’s current success and has been showcasing his mastery of conventional and reverse swing throughout his team’s run of One Day and Test wins over England. With Ryan Sidebottom and Chaminda Vaas also in the top 15 of the world Test rankings, this is perhaps the golden age of the left arm paceman.

With Sidebottom struggling for fitness and Vaas nearing the end of his illustrious career, Johnson and Khan – at the front of respective Australian and Indian batteries of lefties containing Nathan Bracken, Doug Bollinger, Irfan Pathan and RP Singh - are the pre-eminent left arm seamers and two of the bowlers most likely to knock Dale Steyn off his best fast bowler in the world perch.

Khan has been attracting comparisons with Wasim Akram – the ultimate compliment for a left armer – and the England players who have consistently struggled to cope with his pace, accuracy and array of variations would be the first to acknowledge him as the trickiest seamer to face in world cricket.

Flourishing on the subcontinent is the sign of a class pace bowler and Johnson’s promising recent displays in India suggest he deserves to be considered in the same company as Vaas and Khan.

The Queenslander’s unconventional run-up and slingy action disguise a genuine swing bowler whose nippy pace often surprises batsmen. His seven wicket haul on the first day at Perth was a mixture of swing bowler’s dismissals, facilitated by his angle of attack to right handers and wickets captured due raw pace on a WACA surface that isn’t as fast and bouncy as it once was.

The current surfeit of left arm pacemen is not only good news for spinners who appreciate the rough generated by their colleagues follow-through, but also for cricket fans who like constructing fantasy cricket teams – a left-handed 11 would now give a right-handed line-up a really good game and provide the ICC with an alternative to the ill-fated World XI Super Series.

Written by Philip Oliver, a sports writer who blogs about cricket betting.


Tim said...

Great piece. Johnson's efforts don't bode too well for next summer.

Sidebottom looks as if he may not play another Test, but Zaheer is always a joy to watch.

Philip Oliver said...

Picking up from where I left off: A world lefties Test XI: Smith, Gambhir, Sangakkara(wk), Chanderpaul, Hussey, Prince, Vettori, Vaas, Zaheer, Johnson, Sidebottom.

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